A few years ago, if you'd asked most fans and media about George Sotiropoulos' chances at a UFC lightweight title, they probably would've laughed you out of the room. After all, the former "Ultimate Fighter" cast member disappeared from the scene for much of 2008 and 2009, and that was after flaming out in the semifinals of Season 6 after entering the show as one of the favorites.
If you make the same bold statement about his status as a contender now, no one can argue. Sotiropoulous did it again. After pulling a shocker on Joe Stevenson at UFC 110, he dominated another season fighter in Kurt Pellegrino taking a unanimous decision, 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28, in the opening of the pay-per-view at UFC 116.
Sotiropoulos (13-2, 6-0 UFC) set the tone early by beating Pellegrino to the punch over the first few minutes. He consistently found a home for his left hook in the first two minutes. He floored Pellegrino when he nailed him with a nice combo finished punctuated by a straight left. The Aussie scored a takedown 40 seconds into the second and worked Pellegrino over on the ground for most of the round. As the fight went to the third, Pellegrino's trainer Kenny Florian implored him to go for broke down 2-0.
"We have to steal this round and finish him," yelled Florian. "You have to put everything you have into it. Your hips, ass and legs into your punches. You have to take him out."
But the final round was as frustrating as the first two for Pellegrino (15-5, 7-4 UFC). Sotiropoulos came out firing a consistent jab and thwarted Pellegrino's offense. He simply couldn't let his hands go. Pellegrino did score a takedown with 3:15 left in the fight but spent much of the time on the mat defending against Sotiropoulos from throwing his legs up for a submission attempt. Pellegrino finally landed the fight changing shot he was looking for but it came with less than 15 seconds left in the fight. He landed a knee followed by a right hand and then another right hand on the ground. Then the bell sounded.
Sotiropoulos never lost hope, bouncing around the world to improve his game and eventually settled in Southern California where he has taken his entire game to another level.
- Kurt Pellegrino
- George Sotiropoulos